Researcher

Dr Justine Megan Gatt

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Biography

Dr Gatt is Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader of the Gatt Resilience Laboratory at Neuroscience Research Australia and Senior Research Fellow at the School of Psychology, UNSW. She leads a research program that focuses on understanding the neuroscience of wellbeing and resilience to stress and trauma, and ways wellbeing and resilience can be promoted via various intervention platforms.

Dr Gatt received her PhD in Psychology at the...view more

Dr Gatt is Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader of the Gatt Resilience Laboratory at Neuroscience Research Australia and Senior Research Fellow at the School of Psychology, UNSW. She leads a research program that focuses on understanding the neuroscience of wellbeing and resilience to stress and trauma, and ways wellbeing and resilience can be promoted via various intervention platforms.

Dr Gatt received her PhD in Psychology at the University of Sydney in December 2005 (conferred May, 2006). She took up a postdoctoral research position at the Brain Dynamics Centre based within the Westmead Millennium Institute, with a focus on the genetic and brain markers of risk for mental health. Her work focused specifically on the predictors of risk for depression and anxiety; in particular, genetic markers of risk such as the genetic polymorphisms BDNF, HTR3A and COMT, and integrating these genes with core brain and body measures including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and electrocardiography (ECG). From this research, Dr Gatt pioneered new ways to statistically model these relationships, including the application of structural equation modeling, which has led to new ways to understand the mediating and moderating relationships in pathways to mental illness. Dr Gatt has since been successful in obtaining several competitive fellowships and grants. Some of these key projects include an ARC Linkage Postdoctoral Fellowship (2008-2011) in the gene-brain markers of emotional stability and instability in healthy adult twins; also known as the TWIN-E Study in Emotional Wellbeing. Dr Gatt was the ARC Linkage Postdoctoral Fellow and Project Coordinator for this project, working with investigators Prof Leanne Williams (Chief Investigator, Stanford University), Prof Peter Schofield (NeuRA), Prof Richard Clark (Flinders University) and A/Prof Anthony Harris (Sydney University). This study was initiated in 2009 and sought to identify the gene, environment and brain markers of risk for mental health and wellbeing over time. By studying over 1,600 identical and non-identical twins, we hoped to better understand the factors that may protect someone from becoming mentally ill, even if they have been exposed to some risk factors such as trauma or stressful life events. Dr Gatt was subsequently awarded a NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (2014-2017) in the neuroscience and genetics of resilience, which included an examination of ways to promote optimal wellbeing using e-health strategies. This research program sought to identify the neural circuitry that underlies resilience in both adults and adolescence, and the specific gene-environment mechanisms that moderate these effects. She is also working with several industry partners to test out different e-health tools to evaluate optimal ways to promote wellbeing and resilience in the general population.

Currently, Dr Gatt is running several projects. These include (a) a longitudinal study of healthy adult twins from her TWIN-E Emotional Wellbeing Study followed after 10 and 12 years to determine changes in brain structure/function, neurocognitive performance and mental health outcomes over time that predict a risk versus resilience trajectory; (b) a project focusing on the impact of Instagram use on mental health and wellbeing in adolescents and young adults; (c) a project focusing on the impact of stuttering and its treatment on the wellbeing of children and their parents; (d) several clinical studies focusing on the impact of mental health treatment on wellbeing in youth and adults undergoing treatment; (e) wellbeing in the workplace; and (f) online smartphone wellness technologies.

Together, this work has resulted in multiple peer-reviewed publications in leading national and international journals including Molecular Psychiatry and Biological Psychiatry. Dr Gatt has also received a number of prizes and awards for her research including the Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Excellence in Medical Research (2014), the NHMRC Excellence Award for top-ranked CDF fellowship (2013), the Westmead Millennium Institute Science Prizes (2009 and 2010), and several other national/international travel awards from foremost professional societies.


My Grants

Fellowships:

  • 2014-2017:  NHMRC CDF Level 1 Fellowship (APP1062495), 'Resilience - What is it and how do we promote it?.
  • 2013-2014:  Westmead Charitable Trust Fellowship, 'Development of measures of wellbeing'.
  • 2012-2013:  USyd DVC Research Fellowship, 'The neurogenetics of mental wellbeing'.
  • 2008-2011: ARC Linkage APDI Fellowship (LP0455104), 'Gene-brain pathways in emotional brain stability and instability'.

Grants:

  • 2020-2021: Mindgardens Neuroscience Network Grant, 'Measuring and promoting wellbeing', Justine Gatt.
  • 2020: Instagram Wellbeing Research Grant, 'Impact of Instagram on mental wellbeing in adolescents versus young adults'. Justine Gatt, Haeme Park.
  • 2020: SWSLHD Clinical Knowledge Exchange Seed Funding Initiative, 'The mental health and wellbeing of children who stutter and their caregivers'. Verity MacMillan, Justine Gatt (Co-Leads), Stacey Sheedy, Wendy Lloyd, Haeme Park.
  • 2017-2021:  NHMRC Project Grant (APP1122816), 'Neural trajectories towards vulnerability versus resilience: A longitudinal twin study'. Justine Gatt, Robin Turner, Leanne Williams.
  • 2016: UNSW Science Faculty Research Grant, Justine Gatt.
  • 2015: UNSW Science Faculty Research Grant, 'Resilience in the brain: Establishing new neural circuits and imaging algorithms'. Justine Gatt.
  • 2013-2015:  NHMRC PhD Scholarship for PhD student, Kylie Routledge (APP1055839), 'Impact of cognitive training on emotional and cognitive function: A twin study'. Kylie Routledge, Justine Gatt.
  • 2008-2011:  ARC Linkage Project (LP0455104), 'Gene-brain pathways in emotional brain stability and instability', Leanne Williams, Peter Schofield, Richard Clark, Anthony Harris, Justine Gatt.

My Qualifications

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, University of Sydney, Conferred December 2005.

BA (Hons I) in Psychology, University of Sydney, 2000.


My Awards

  • 2019: WUN Success Story awarded to the WUN Resilience Research Group for ‘Exceptional Levels of Achievement’ (Dr Gatt was the Lead Coordinator of the WUN International Youth Resilience Group). Awarded at the WUN Conference in Dublin on 22 May.
  • 2019:  NeuRA Carer's Travel Award
  • 2016:  Australian Twins Registry Travel Award
  • 2014:  Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research for 2014 ($50,000) – only one awarded nationally per year
  • 2014:  NHMRC Excellence Award: Top Ranked Applicant in Industry-I Category of the CDF Scheme 2013
  • 2014:  Australian Twins Registry Travel Award
    2012:  Australian Twins Registry Travel Award 
  • 2010:  Westmead Millennium Institute Science Prize ($5,000)
  • 2009:  Westmead Millennium Institute Science Prize ($5,000)
  • 2009:  Congress of Biological Psychiatry Travel Award ($1,000)
  • 2008:  Australian Twins Registry Travel Award ($2,000)
  • 2006:  Human Brain Mapping Travel Award 
  • 2004:  University of Sydney Completion Scholarship
  • 2002-2004: University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Award
  • 2000:  Highest ranking Honours Thesis (Arts Faculty)

My Research Activities

Dr Justine Gatt leads a research program focusing on the neuroscience and genetics of wellbeing and resilience to trauma and stress. Her work includes a focus on healthy populations (both singleton and twin cohorts) at various ages and with varying levels of exposure to stress and trauma in order to identify the genetic and brain mechanisms that predict resilience versus illness over time. Study designs include both prospective studies and intervention trials. Apart from measures of DNA and life experiences, her team has collected a wide suite of neurocognitive performance assessments, as well as neuroimaging measures (e.g., MRI, fMRI, DTI), neurophysiological measures (e.g., EEG, ERP) and measures of autonomic functioning.


My Research Supervision


Areas of supervision

PhD, Masters, ILP/Honours


Currently supervising

Arthur Montalto (PhD, 2018-2021) - University of New South Wales
Javad Jamshidi (PhD, 2018-2021) - University of New South Wales
Miranda Chilver (PhD, 2018-2021) - University of New South Wales
Rebecca Alexander (PhD, 2015-2019) - The Australian National University


My Engagement

Additional Professional Roles:
Chair, NeuRA Invited Seminar Series Committee (2018-)
Chief Scientific Advisor, MAP for Wellbeing Corp. Pte Ltd (2013-)

Editorial Roles:
Editorial Board Member, Psychiatry Journal (2018-)
Review Editor, Frontiers in Psychology (2013-)

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Location

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA)
Margarete Ainsworth Building
Barker Street, Randwick
Sydney NSW 2031 Australia

Map reference (Google map)

Contact

+61 2 9399 1812